Soulful crooner Chad Bishop. Photo by Esther Kang.
Chad Bishop was a comedian before anything else.
The 44-year-old Alabama native, who is known around town for his soulful crooning as the frontman of The Master Plan and cover band In Contempt, grew up making his family and friends laugh by doing uncanny impressions of legendary singers.
When he was a young boy, he would stay up until midnight with his mother waiting for his father to get home from work. Every night, the two of them watched The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It enthralled him — in particular, an impressionist called Rich Little would do bits that his mother would make his mother laugh. Bishop was hooked. He wanted to grow up to be a showman.
He played trombone from grade school through high school, earning a scholarship to attend Alabama State University. That first semester, his trombone — a graduation gift from his parents — had an accident. His roommates were wresting around and smashed the horn.
“My parents weren’t about to buy me a new one, so I put the trombone down and started singing,” Bishop said.
Listening to his father’s old comedy tapes, he discovered a bit in which an impressionist imitated the likes of Elvis Presley, James Brown and Michael Jackson. He memorized the sketch front to back and performed it for his friends. They would find it hilarious yet urged him to take singing more seriously, but it wasn’t until Bishop was in Colorado, fresh out of the military, that he found his footing in pursuing music seriously.
Transitions, Chad Bishop's second full-length album, will drop in the coming weeks. Photo by Sarah Lim.
About a month before his audition to play football at a college in Denver, a friend reached out to him about having dinner with he and his partner who has a studio. The two began collaborating almost immediately on a new project, shelving Bishop’s plans to pursue playing football.
“I started going to his house every day, listening to myself on headphones, and I really started liking it," he said.
He became the frontman of a rock-soul group called Hypnotic and cut his teeth on performing live all around town. The band lasted for about two years, and Bishop moved out to California and began working at the Compton school district.
“I got the bug then,” he said. “We got our first paid gig at [Barnes and Noble]. That was my job at the time. I was real happy about that.”
At Long Beach City College (LBCC) around 2005, where he was studying music, he found a group of like-minded musicians who were eager to collaborate and initiate him into the local music scene.
“That’s where I met a lot of people I know now,” he said. “To me it was like going to Berkelee, or something similar to that. A lot of talented people, great professors.”
Most notably, he met a group of guys with whom he would form Soul Shack Entertainment, a creative collective of producers and MCs who got together every day in the back studio of an appliance shop on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Walnut. It was there Bishop recorded his first full-length album. Soul Shack would go on to host residencies at New York Brians (where Taco Beach now sits) as well as the House of Blues in Anaheim and Harvelle’s.
A few years later, Bishop was hit with significant hardship in his life — a divorce, and the death of his grandfather and father within six months of each other. During this time, he retreated into a period of solitude, working by day and coming home in the evening to cope by writing.
“I was doing some soul searching,” he said. “All right, I’m the only man left [among] my sisters, aunts and cousins. So what am I gonna do with myself? I’m free now as far as being married. I guess I decided to lock myself in for about a year. I just went to work and vented about some things I was going through.”
This is the period where he wrote the bulk of his new full-length album Transitions. Recorded at Long Beach Most Wanted Studios with DJ Solo and productions by Tony Blair, the seven-track album is a soulful journey through the trials of the human condition.
Bishop’s Transitions LP release show takes place on Saturday, June 18 at The Brass Lamp. It begins at 7:00PM with Bootleg Orchestra opening the show. The Master Plan will follow with an instrumental set and will be joined by Bishop for a full set at 9:00PM.
Transitions will be available on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music. Hard copies will be available at upcoming shows and at local record stores.